DaVon Hamilton: The Powerful and Stout Run Defender You Need


Back in high school, DaVon Hamilton was a three-star recruit (via 24/7 Sports) coming out of Pickerington High School in Pickerington, Ohio. Despite being from Ohio, he had originally committed to play football at Pittsburgh, but he ultimately ended up flipping to Mark Stoops and the Kentucky Wildcats. Late into January of his senior year, everything was pointing up for the Wildcats, but before Stoops and his staff could prepare for the next step, Hamilton flipped his commitment yet again.

This time, it was to return to Ohio and play for the Ohio State Buckeyes. It wasn’t a surprising move considering that he was born and raised in Ohio, but beyond just that, the Buckeyes have been churning out talented defensive linemen for years. We could turn the clocks back to the 2008 NFL Draft where Vernon Gholston was the sixth overall pick by the New York Jets, or we could look at the more recent trend from the Buckeyes and the NFL Draft. In short, draft a Buckeye defensive lineman (OK, maybe Gholston isn’t the best example, but still).

Joey Bosa, Nick Bosa, Dre’Mont Jones, Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, and Jalyn Holmes. All of these players have been selected in an NFL Draft since 2016, and not much is going to change this year. We’re certainly going to see Chase Young within the top three picks of the 2020 NFL Draft, and there’s a pretty good chance that we see Robert Landers as an interior defensive lineman at some point on day three. Where does that leave DaVon Hamilton? He’ll certainly be drafted in the 2020 NFL Draft, but where should he be drafted? What does he bring to the table for the team that’s drafting him? Let’s find out.

Swim Move, Fight Pressure with Pressure, and Countering Back Inside 

For the 2020 Senior Bowl, DaVon Hamilton accepted his invite and was a full participant during the week of practices and game. Checking into the Senior Bowl, he stood 6’3″ and weighed 327 pounds. Every bit of that, it’s clear that Hamilton will hold his own against anyone in the trenches. In fact, he did that for much of the season and even the season prior. During the 2018 season, he had a 90.1 run defense grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF). It all starts with his ability to fight pressure with pressure and/or countering back inside with his hands.

With his arm length at the Senior Bowl being 32 7/8 inches, it’s important for Hamilton to create separation. That way, his chest isn’t easily accessible for interior offensive linemen to target and drive him off the ball. On the play above, he’s matched up against Wisconsin center (and likely early draft pick) Tyler Biadasz. Prior to the snap, Biadasz points towards him and it’s clear that they’re going to go to war. This time, Hamilton wins with the way he sustains his gap, keeps his ground, and fights pressure with pressure. As he reads the backfield, he counters back inside on Biadasz to stop the run with a swim move.

This time, we fast forward to the Big Ten Championship game, where the Badgers and Buckeyes and have a rematch. In the early going, Hamilton quickly takes advantage of Biadasz. He wins off the ball with quickness, and no matter how many times Biadasz knew the snap count, he was losing in the early going. The play above is a perfect example of the explosiveness that Hamilton has, and check out how quickly he hits the swim move. This plugs him in the backfield to hit the running back and generate some pressure towards the quarterback.

Defeating the Reach Block 

If you’re an interior defensive lineman, you’re going to want to find ways to defeat reach blocks. For Hamilton, he loves playing as a one-technique (inside shoulder of the guard) or as a zero-shade (outside shoulder of the center), so he’s going to be more prone to see these types of reach blocks where it’s one offensive lineman after the other. If you can’t beat the reach block by fighting pressure with pressure, you’ll have to be quicker than the man across from you.

That’s exactly what Hamilton does on the play above. Aligned in the A-gap as a zero-shade, he recognizes the Indiana offensive line reach blocking to their right. He has to beat it quickly by plugging that back-side A-gap he’s aligned in, and that’s exactly what he does. As he stays low, he raises his pad level through contact, but look at the lower-body movement from him. Once he reaches the heels of the offensive line, he’s able to flip his hips toward the running back and meet him near the line of scrimmage for the tackle. These are the types of plays that will earn you a spot as defensive tackle needed to stop the run at the next level.

Bull-Rush Leads to Sack 

Once you pop in the tape on Hamilton, you’ll certainly recognize that he’ll need to get faster hands or just generate some type of hand movement. With his size, it’s clear that he puts far too much trust in his power, and this will come back and hurt him at the next level. Fortunately, he’s able to generate some pressure here and get a sack on the quarterback here.

During the season, Hamilton aligned in the B-gap (4i-technique or 3-technique) on 249 snaps (from Pro Football Focus). It’s odd to see such a high number of snaps there because Hamilton looks more comfortable in the A-gap (1-technique or zero-shade). Either way, he’s aligned as a three-technique and in the B-gap on the play above. Once the ball is snapped, he rushes straight towards the quarterback with a bull-rush and it ends up working out once the quarterback climbs the pocket.

Effort and Pursuit to the Football 

It’s “Football 101” that if you don’t have good effort and don’t pursue to the football, you’re not going to see the field very much. When Hamilton is on the field, he gives you an honest effort and does consistently pursue to the football, especially when there’s a chance that he can make a play on the football. More often than not, he ends up making that play.

On the play above, you’ll see Hamilton aligned as a zero-shade on the center. Even though he’s a step slower off the ball than everyone else, he does read this swing-screen pass and quickly pursues to the ball-carrier. With that effort, he assists on the tackle as the ball-carrier tries to cut back up-field.

Against Michigan State, Hamilton didn’t load the stat sheet with tackles or sacks. Fortunately, he did plug gaps and prevent any rushing lanes from opening for the Spartans’ offense. The Spartans only had 69 rushing yards in this game and, in fact, Hamilton did have a fumble recovery that led to the first points of the game, a field goal for the Buckeyes.

On the play above, he gets around the right guard with ease but then pursues toward the running back as the option occurs. Once the ball hits the turf, he’s right there to recover the fumble and get the ball back in the hands of the Buckeyes.

Final Thoughts 

If you’ve been following my work and checking out my timeline on Twitter (@RussNFLDraft) you’ve figured out that I’m a fan of DaVon Hamilton. He’s not an elite player and doesn’t have elite hand usage, but he plugs the gap and loves to either bull-rush or use a swim move on an offensive lineman. It doesn’t work every time, but for the limited amount of snaps he played during his senior season, he was shockingly productive.

During the 2019 season, he only logged 354 defensive snaps and had just under 1100 snaps in his collegiate career (per Pro Football Focus). Despite the limited amount of time on the field, he’s been productive. He finished the season with 28 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, and six sacks. All of those numbers are career highs, and it’s looking like an NFL franchise is going to get him at the right time and have the chance to mold him into a consistent starter.

Currently, Hamilton sits with a late-third-round grade on my board for the 2020 NFL Draft, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he slips into the third day of the 2020 NFL Draft. At the next level, he’ll win with a consistent blend of power, explosiveness and ability to win at the point of attack. The Detroit Lions were able to coach him at the Senior Bowl, so it’ll be interesting to see where they value him, especially if they lose players like Damon “Snacks” Harrison and A’Shawn Robinson on their interior defensive line. Expect him to be an effective player in the A-gap, as that seems like a more natural fit right now. If your team needs help stopping the run, then look no further than this powerful and stout run defender from the Ohio State Buckeyes.

National Scout for Cover 1. Host of Cover 1 | The NFL Draft Podcast. NFL Draft Enthusiast. X's and O's. Heard on ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio and CBS Sports Radio.